February’s culture wars — That Sochi snub, and that Jeopardy! guy

By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly

Welcome to the latest edition of Apop! In this month’s column, I talk about the Olympics and a talented — yet controversial — game show whiz. Read on to find out more!

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Adelina Sotnikova takes the gold while Kim Yu-na takes silver.

An Olympics recap: Skating and scandal in Sochi

The Sochi Olympics dominated primetime television for most of February. Asians from around the world took to the international sports stage in Russia to represent their countries. Figure skating has historically been one of the Games’ more controversial sports, and it was not without its share of drama this year.

South Korean Kim Yu-na, the women’s figure skating gold medalist from the 2010 Vancouver Games, returned to Sochi to defend her title in hopes of winning back-to-back gold. Although Kim made it clear that her heart was not nearly as invested in the 2014 Games compared to her run in 2010, she was still considered the favorite to win gold in the women’s figure skating event. But Kim suffered an upset to Russian upstart skater Adelina Sotnikova, who took home the gold with a five-point margin over Kim, leaving the South Korean with a silver medal.

The skating world and viewers expressed outrage over the perceived gold medal snub. Fans even launched an online petition to investigate the judging decisions of the women’s figure skating event, which generated so much attention that the website initially crashed due to the overwhelming response.

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After her performance, Sotnikova gets a hug from one of the judges.

It was also revealed that the judging panel included a Ukrainian judge with Russian ties, who had previously been suspended for a year due to fixing the ice dancing competition at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan. A Russian judge on the panel was also revealed to be the wife of the president and general director of the Russian Skating Federation. Television footage of Sotnikova hugging the Russian judge after the announcement of her gold medal win also casted doubt. While there is no hard evidence of a set-up, it’s hard not to view the situation with some level of skepticism.

In my opinion (based purely on my credentials as a pro casual viewer), I thought Kim had the stronger performance. Kim’s program, though simpler, showcased a cleaner and fundamentally more artistic routine than her Russian counterpart. Sotnikova, though talented, stumbled on a landing, and lacked the maturity and grace that Kim’s program possessed.

But Sotnikova was able to edge out Kim by executing one extra triple jump in her routine, earning her more points under a new judging system that favors technicality over artistry. It’s not a decision that the world may agree with, but I suppose that is why professional figure skating is so fascinating, infuriating, and controversial — all the subjectivity that goes into the judging decisions.

Elsewhere, Seattle’s own beloved short track speed skater J.R. Celski entered the Olympics as the de facto leader and main hope for the U.S. team. Although Celski failed to podium for three of his four eligible events, he helped the U.S. team take home the silver medal in the team relay event. Congrats to Celski and his fellow teammates!

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Alex Trebek, host of Jeopardy! and Arthur Chu, contestant.

Game show controversy

There’s a new game show champ in town and his name is Arthur Chu. As of this writing, Chu is on a nine-time “Jeopardy!” winning streak. He appears to be on track to continue kicking butt and taking names on the show. However, Chu’s winning streak has been a polarizing one, as he employs extensive game theory, aggressive buzzing, and a brash manner in order to bulldoze his competitors. It’s a different playing technique than what long-time viewers are used to. Chu plays the game with ruthless pragmatism, while it seems as if fans prefer game contestants that come off humble and, well, effortlessly genius.

Because the show’s traditional fans dislike Chu’s swagger, a major audience backlash resulted in social media slams against him, targeting his race, appearance, and personality on the show.

Still, Chu proves that he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, and often slams his detractors right back. It doesn’t look like Chu’s winning streak, or his confidence, will be letting up any time soon. Catch “Jeopardy!” later this week to watch Chu in action. (end)

Vivian Nguyen can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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